Written by the students of Fitch High School and trusted since 1928

The Falcon Press

Written by the students of Fitch High School and trusted since 1928

The Falcon Press

Written by the students of Fitch High School and trusted since 1928

The Falcon Press

The History of the Super Bowl Halftime Show


From humble marching bands to world-stopping events, Super Bowl Half Time shows have had some of the most impactful and famous entertainers of all time performing for a live audience of millions annually. From icons like Michael Jackson and Beyoncé to contemporary stars like The Weeknd and Travis Scott, there is no shortage of famous halftime show performances.

But how did we get to the point of these jaw dropping events? It may be hard to believe, but the original halftime shows performed during the very first few Super Bowls were marching parades with patriotic and copyright-free famous songs performed by local college bands. As time went on, they added themes to each year’s halftime program, such as a Mardi Gras themed halftime show or a Hollywood themed halftime show. However, by today’s standards these shows would be considered pretty bizarre due to a lack of big stars and pop music that we see today. This tradition continued into the late ‘80s when the Super Bowl halftime faced counterprogramming by other, arguably more engaging programs which were running at the same time on other TV networks, as the marching performances were simply put, not interesting to many viewers.

The final straw for the NFL was in 1992, when their halftime show had the theme of celebrating the Winter Olympics, featuring Olympic figure skaters. This performance, aired on CBS, went up against a special episode of the popular sketch comedy show “In Living Color” on Fox, which was the first instance in history of a popular program successfully counterprogramming the Super Bowl. An estimated 20 million viewers changed channels to watch Fox instead of the halftime show.

The next year, the NFL booked pop music icon Michael Jackson to perform for the halftime show. This set the standard for every modern Super Bowl halftime show after that point. In addition, this performance was the first to phase out the inclusion of a college band performance as a main headlining act.

Starting around Super Bowl XXX, the half time shows began getting sponsored. Then, Super Bowl XXXVI featured the final half time show to have a theme, as it centered around those killed in the 9/11 attacks as it had occurred less than six months prior. 

In the early 2000s, Super Bowl shows became bigger and more elaborate performances until the Janet Jackson-Justin Timberlake halftime show controversy in 2004, where Justin Timberlake exposed what was underneath Jackson’s clothes during the live broadcast. After the incident, the NFL chose to invite older rock and pop bands and singers such as the Rolling Stones and Paul McCartney over the next six years, as they were seen as being more family friendly and unlikely to cause a similar incident. 

In the 2010s, more pop stars like Beyoncé and Lady Gaga were headlining, which brings us to modern Super Bowls today. Last year, Rihanna’s performance broke records as the most watched halftime show in history with over 121 million viewers. The host for this year’s halftime show will be Usher, and it will be his first solo performance at the Super Bowl (he previously played as a part of the Black Eyed Peas halftime performance in 2011). 

The phenomenon of the Super Bowl halftime show has certainly gone far. From simple college marching bands to full on celebrity concerts, the humble halftime show has made a place in cultural history for its significance, and frankly for how cool it is to see our favorite artists live on TV.


Works Cited

Chiriguayo, Danielle, and Bennett Purser. “’In Living Color’ lured 20 million viewers away from Super Bowl and changed the game.” KCRW, 6 February 2024, https://www.kcrw.com/news/shows/press-play-with-madeleine-brand/rain-glacier-biden-super-bowl/in-living-color. Accessed 8 February 2024.

Fallon, Kevin. “Boobs, Beyoncé, & Brass Bands: The Evolution of the Super Bowl Halftime Show.” The Daily Beast, 5 February 2016, https://www.thedailybeast.com/boobs-beyonce-and-brass-bands-the-evolution-of-the-super-bowl-halftime-show. Accessed 8 February 2024.

“If NFL doesn’t put on a halftime show, someone else will.” NBC Sports, 5 February 2013, https://www.nbcsports.com/nfl/profootballtalk/rumor-mill/news/if-nfl-doesnt-put-on-a-halftime-show-someone-else-will. Accessed 8 February 2024.

“List of Super Bowl halftime shows.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Super_Bowl_halftime_shows. Accessed 8 February 2024.

Mamo, Heran. “Rihanna’s 2023 Super Bowl Halftime Show Is Now the Most-Watched of All Time.” Billboard, 2 May 2023, https://www.billboard.com/music/music-news/rihanna-super-bowl-halftime-show-most-watched-all-time-1235320433/. Accessed 8 February 2024.

YouTube: Home, 13 November 2016, https://apnews.com/article/super-bowl-halftime-show-evolution-871dc42f17b26dc4f2503504edf44995%5C. Accessed 8 February 2024.

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About the Contributor
Naman Patel, Staff Writer
Naman is a junior at Fitch High School. He enjoys weightlifting, and is a part of the Robotics team. He also is a part of the Debate Team and the Falcon News Video Crew. He enjoys doing video production, computer science, and learning about history. He hopes in the future to become a software engineer who lives in a big urban city.

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